It looks like Charli Turner Thorne won’t have to play ‘small ball’ for the foreseeable future. And that means big things are ahead for her Arizona State women’s basketball team.
This season could mark the beginning of a march to the Final Four for Turner Thorne, who will be starting her 24th season as the Sun Devils’ head coach. She has taken ASU teams to the NCAA Tournament 14 times and made it to the Elite Eight twice. But the Final Four has eluded her for more than two decades.
Now she’s finally in a position to make a legitimate run to that goal. Maybe not this year, but the future is looking promising, thanks to the addition of some size in the lineup.
It takes a number of elements to come together for a program that hopes to go deep into the postseason. One of those key ingredients is size. Playing ‘small ball’ by using a shorter quicker line-up can take a team only so far.
Beginning this season, the Sun Devils will have that missing ingredient – although it may take a couple of seasons to develop.
Turner Thorne has pulled in a recruiting class that features four players that hover around 6’4″ each. Since they’re all freshmen, it will take some adjustment to the college game to get the most out of their talents. But the potential is there.
Keeli Burton-Oliver is a 6’3″ forward from Seattle, Wash., who averaged a double-double for all four high school years and is ranked No. 12 at her position by ESPN. Maggie Bresselink, a native of Ontario, and Katelyn Levings, from Oklahoma, add two more 6’3″ forwards to give the Devils a stand of tall trees to make it difficult for opposing guards to penetrate to the basket. Both are ranked in ESPN’s top 25 at their position.
To add some serious rebounding and shot-blocking, Turner Thorne added 6’4″ center Imogen Greenslade to roam the paint. Greenslade is from Australia where she gained international experience, helping the U20 team to a silver medal at the 2019 National Championships.
The 2020 recruiting class even added some additional size in the back court. Sydney Erikstrup is a 6’1″ freshman guard who was a two-time all-state selection at Beaverton High School in Oregon, and ranked No. 32 at her position.
And the focus on size ramps up next year, when Meg Newman will begin her freshman season in Tempe. The 4-star forward from Indiana evidently recognized the potential in the ASU program because she passed up offers from schools like Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina, and Michigan State to play for Turner Thorne.
If there’s a downside to all this it would be that the Sun Devils will be breaking in a bunch of young colts this season with very little senior leadership to offset that inexperience. In fact, forward Bre’yanna Sanders, a 6’0″ forward from California, is the only senior on the roster. She played in 23 games last year.
The Sun Devils are riding a school-record six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, so they’re poised to take the Pac-12 program to the next level.
Additional size will just help them get there that much sooner.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)